Some people with autism can appear to be not paying attention. Some can appear to be off task. Some can cut right to the chase and insist that going to Clinton is a better idea. Some can appear to be downright oppositional.
It really is important for neurotypical people to understand that the reasons for ANY autistic person’s apparently disparate responses to requests we make (disparate from responses we might expect) are due to different neurology. Sometimes, that different neurology doesn’t affect the route to downtown Guilford at all. But sometimes we have to ask ourselves the follow sets of questions:
- How can you possibly end up in downtown Guilford when your body refuses to head in that direction and stubbornly heads toward the Clinton Outlet Mall instead? Have you not paid attention to the request or is it that your body is not paying attention to you?
- What if someone saying “Guilford” makes you think of Guilford’s 375th anniversary which makes you remember your grandparents’ 50th anniversary which makes you think of how your grandfather just died leaving your grandmother alone in her house near the Clinton Outlet Mall? And what if your anxiety is now skyrocketing because you love Grandma and are worried about her so all you can think about is going to Clinton? Maybe you end up being inattentive to the original request – but isn’t it for a good reason?
- What about when you are expected to think “A” (e.g., “I was told to go to downtown Guilford”) and then “B” (“so I better get going to downtown Guilford”) but instead your mind blasts? It blasts from “A” to “quadruple Z” (going to the Clinton Outlet Mall) gathering with it all the reasons (B->C->D->… LL->MM->NN…RRR->SSS->TTT…XXXX->YYYY->ZZZZ) why “quadruple Z” rather than merely “B” is a more rational choice. What if you can’t really articulate all these reasons very well or, worse, can only say “Clinton, Clinton, Clinton” over and over? (I will address this phenomenon, technically called “echolalia,” in a later blog!)
- What if you could go to downtown Guilford but the sound of the Shoreline train going by over a mile away just made your eardrums feel pierced, the sun flickering outside is too bright and hurts your eyes, all you can smell is really stinky lunch someone just nuked, and you really should have worn something else today because your clothes are pretty uncomfortable? Going to downtown Guilford by way of the Clinton Outlet Mall just makes a heckuva lot more sense, right?
“Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) or you, too, might be accused of not being able to see things from someone else’s perspective.